By Beth David, Editor
With a new board after the special/ recall election, the Fairhaven Select Board was finally able to move forward on the process of hiring a permanent Town Administrator. The board had been stymied for months, with board member Keith Silvia not allowed to participate because his wife is the Council on Aging Director and reports directly to the TA. Remaining board members Daniel Freitas and Bob Espindola disagreed on a choice from the list of finalists. Then Mr. Freitas declared he would not participate in any TA discussions. Meanwhile, interim TA Wendy Graves, who is also the town’s Finance Director/Treasurer/Collector, surpassed the six-month mark in her temporary role.
The election on 7/26 removed Mr. Freitas from his seat. Stasia Powers won the slot and she and Mr. Espindola were able to agree on course of action at the 8/4/21 meeting.
The board agreed on the makeup of the committee, although that was amended at the 8/9 meeting to include a member of the Board of Public Works and an additional at-large community member (see page 11).
Both Mr. Silvia and Ms. Graves left the room at the start of the TA discussion on 8/4, leaving Mr. Espindola and Ms. Powers to deliberate.
The board also voted on a way to break a stalemate. Since only two members are available to vote on the selection, it is entirely conceivable that there could be a tie. Mr. Espindola proposed that if that should happen, then the two names voted on by the members would be sent back to the Screening Committee to break the tie. The Screening Committee would be required to choose from those two names.
The drawbacks of a three-member board came into stark focus during the process, prompting a Town Meeting article to increase the SB size to five members. The bill is currently making its way through the Mass. legislative process (see 8/5/21 issue).
At the 8/4/21 meeting, the board also voted, unanimously, to ask for a Department of Revenue review of town practices, including financial.
Mr. Silvia and Mr. Freitas had both previously blocked Mr. Espindola’s attempts to ask the DOR for the review.
At the 8/4 meeting both Mr. Silvia and Ms. Graves said they now supported the review.
“I was against it because at the time we had quite a few positions that weren’t filled,” said Mr. Silvia, noting that the town was looking for a building commissioner.
He added that he spoke with people in various positions and they said it was a “lot of work” and new people would not necessarily know what they would need.
“It seems like most of them are filled, so I think we could go ahead with it now,” said Mr. Silvia.
“I’d like to say that I’m also in support of that. Back when you originally talked about it, we were short on staff,” said Ms. Graves, noting she had open positions in the collector’s office and in payroll. “But now that everyone’s been in there for a short time…it’s just another tool.”
Mr. Espindola noted that the town had received a DOR report from such a review in 2012. He said many of the recommendations in that report had been implemented by the town.
He also said that DOR informed the town that it takes a couple of months or more to get on the schedule.
Much of the review is financial, said Mr. Espindola, but they also make structural recommendations. He said in the request to DOR, the town would note that the town has started a Charter Commission. He said there could be a “synergy” between the two efforts and they could “help each other along.”
Ms. Powers said she supported the process.
“I think it will be a great tool once we have a new Town Administrator,” said Ms. Powers, and the report will help the new TA “get up to speed.”
Click here to download the entire 8/12/21 issue: 08-12-21 PurpleHeart
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